I Love This Man / My Soldier
By Teri Saya
He was with me at the County Fair sharing a "brick-o-fries." He was with me to experience the best Chinese Buffet and the best 3D movies ever! He was with me when we cried together over the loss of family, friends, and pets. He was with me when I went through hell with my husband. He was with me when I lost my home. He was with me when the divorce was final and we celebrated at the Reggae Festival. He is my best friend and now my fiance. We have yet to consummate this union...My man is a Vietnam Veteran.
He signed up with the Army in 1968 when he was 18 while searching for meaning in his life. He wanted to make a difference. For 18 months he was in the line of fire in Saigon (a.k.a. Ho Chi Minh City) and Phu Bai. After witnessing the atrocities of an unnecessary war, he completed his tour of duty and returned home.
While working on his BA at the local Community College, he met with members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War and joined them in the 1971 anti-war protests in Washington D.C. Throwing his dog tags over the fence of the White House in protest, he didn't think about what those men in black were going to do with the tags once they gathered them off the lawn.
He suffered with skin rashes, foot fungus, and deep emotional problems, all of which had started in Vietnam. He struggled through college and finally earned his master's degree in Art Therapy. He was diagnosed with classic PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and found that no matter what he tried to do to get some kind of compensation from the Veteran's Administration for his illness, there seemed to be a blockade of red tape designed to discourage.
He worked as an art therapist, a bartender, a security guard, an electrician, a campgrounds keeper, an internet installer, an office manager, a school counselor, and a hot line counselor. His PTSD would not allow him to settle down or have any close relationships. He became angry, depressed, and lonely.
After years of counseling and tons of creams, ointments, and potions, he still suffered from the effects of his time in the military. Trying to find solace and relief from his emotional afflictions, he decided to go back to Vietnam in December of 1999 when he joined the Veterans Vietnam Restoration Project, a non-profit organization that sends teams of veterans to Vietnam to reconcile with the Vietnamese. He was there for 6 weeks, helping build houses and schools. He came home satisfied he had done a good thing. However, still struggling with PTSD, he once again filed for compensation from the Veteran's Administration with the same result as before.
My man has recently retired and we are doing what we can to keep the bills paid. It can be complicated living with an emotionally damaged man. His moods can be a cyclic process, irritability, depression, anger, confusion, regret, acceptance. And then it starts all over again. Imagine trying to sleep or even sit still while your skin itches, your feet are on fire, you're sweating, and your mind is racing. Trying to keep him happy and comfortable is a labor of love. I have learned to accept and wait.
48 years after joining the Army, becoming emotionally and physically damaged in Vietnam, applying over and over again to the Veteran's Administration, my man has yet to see any compensation. So, going back to 1971, what did those men in black DO with those dog tags that were thrown over the fence?
My opinion............Black List.
My name is Teri Saya. I am 56 years old. I have raised 4 boys and endured 3 marriages. I am now engaged to a very interesting and complex Vietnam Veteran who I've known for many years. My line of work is Desktop Publishing. I enjoy reading, writing, movies, exploring.